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Is it possible to love doing something you're not good at?

By Lacelette | Friday, August 12, 2011 at 10:24pm


artfx's picture
Submitted by artfx on

Where there is a strong desire to do a thing, there is certainly the power to do it behind the desire, and it just needs to be developed and applied in the right way. While it is true that computers are a huge part of animation production today, don't assume you have to be stuck with what others are telling you.

ook at the film My Dog Tulip by Paul Fierlinger. It looks very traditional and old school, but he still did it on computers. He did it, however, with the best tools for the job. If you find it difficult to transition from paper to computer, try getting a Tablet PC and Alias Sketchbook. You may change your mind. If not that, try a Wacom Cintiw and TVPaint. There are too many options out there today.

Also, if you're not into what people are telling you should interest you, make your own animation! Bring back the old style yourself!

Ken Davis's picture
Submitted by Ken Davis on

I think you have made a lot of completely unfounded assumptions, and I'm going to step up and say its due to your age; 18 yrs old.

Sorry, but all those things you claim ( or just believe) are negatives are not universal. I've been in the animation biz for over 25 years now, I can tell you this with certainty.

2D isn't dead.
I still work in 2D.
2D media is still in demand.
I still draw, and though the tools are digital ( Cintiq, photoshop etc) the methods and skill-set are still drawing-based.
Have you drawn on a Cintiq?
My digital drawings look just like my pencil drawings, and I can set it up so they are literally indistinguishable. And I do them the same way, with a pen tool, with an "eraser" on the other end and line weights JUST like on paper.

Storytelling is still the thrust of the craft, I don't get where you think its otherwise. There's loads of great stories being told still in animation.

As for the quality of cartoons today? Bah, there's no decline. Artistically speaking, cartoons today look better than they ever have. There's a few dogs out there, but by and large most cartoons have a solid graphic foundation.

Now I am scared, I am bloody scared because I don't think my perception of an animator back then is what the reality is right now. Back then, I looked up to animators as scholars, philosophers, artists who have this power and magic to create these beautiful worlds on TV. I don't see that anymore.

Here's where your ignorance and inexperience really shine through, and to be candid, its insulting.
Animators today are as technically proficient as they have been in the past. The artistry, philosophies about the craft remain the same. I'm surrounded by colleagues that wear the mantle of "old-school" while they unabashedly swim deep into the new school.

Here's some advice: Read a lot more. Read articles and blogs from real animators and animation sites. Seek out real animators' work and study it.
I'm not going to name names, or sites or material to read.......because those are filtered through my biases. You clearly have your own, so take them with a grain of salt and step forth and see what the biz and craft are REALLY like.
You'll find a LOT of stellar talents out there, people that give a great big damn about the biz, and ideas and approaches that are still as fundamentally solid as when the biz was in its hey-day.

As for the other stuff: suck it up.
A tool is just a tool. If you have the skillset, you can transfer talent from drawing on paper to talent in drawing on a tablet or Cintiq. Many of these tools differ only by procedures.
True , drawing on a tablet CAN be different than drawing on a Cintiq ( which is why I personally chose to get a Cintiq myself) but there are ways to work around that.
If you throw up your hands and quit at something then you have closed off that career avenue. Adaptation is the key to this biz, you can easily wear many different hats as technology changes, and its going to continue to change.

Try different tools, foster your artistic abilities to be as good as professional level (or better), explore different media and methods. Educate yourself. Don't ASSUME. If you don't know, accept that--remain open-minded until you do know.
18 yrs old isn't an issue........its barely out of the gate, and its really far too young/early to have such dis-empowering beliefs about something you really have barely begun to explore.

beeblebrox's picture
Submitted by beeblebrox on

Ken addressed a lot of salient points. I just wanted to add that the problem here is not the state of animation, but rather your wrong perceptions, wrong assumptions, and comparing a lot of apples to oranges (and TV to film).

Now I am scared, I am bloody scared because I don't think my perception of an animator back then is what the reality is right now. Back then, I looked up to animators as scholars, philosophers, artists who have this power and magic to create these beautiful worlds on TV.

Your perception back then is not what reality was back then either. Ollie Johnston did not work on Hey Arnold. He worked in feature animation, and the artists that work in feature animation today are still the scholars, philosophers and artists that have worked in this medium. In fact, studios like Dreamworks, Pixar, and Disney have some of the biggest collection of top-quality professionals ever assembled. Hundreds of artists with a wide range of interests and pursuits all under one roof. It's a marvel.

Yes, their tools are somewhat different today than yesteryear, but Walt Disney himself always embraced new technology whenever possible, whatever helped him advance the medium of animation.

As for the TV world, as Ken said, 2D is alive and well. So is the passion for storytelling. I'd put Phineas and Ferb up against Hey Arnold any day of the week. And then there's Futurama, The Simpsons, Family Guy, Avatar, Avengers (a show I worked on), et al. As Ken said, the quality of animation is as good as it ever was. And count yourself lucky. I grew up in the era of cheap 70s and 80s animation.

If you don't want to adapt, then there's still plenty of demand for 2D artists. I recommend, however, that you expand your knowledge and your appreciation for the tools that we have today as artists and storytellers. You'll benefit not just professionally, but artistically as well.

Lacelette's picture
Submitted by Lacelette on

Hahaha...well, "If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn. (Faber, Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury)". I kinda had a feeling that most of the stuff I said wasn't true, wasn't even based on any real facts I've read online or in books.

But it was a belief that came from my fear of failing and from what my peers tell me whether they know what they're saying or not. Its funny when someone doesn't know anything, how easy it is to believe what anyone says about it. But I'm not blaming anyone, what I said in my first post were real doubts that formed in my own head and that I had to voice it out somewhere where people could challenge or at least provide a different view of it. And I got that. So thank you.

What I understand from all three of you is that, yes, it is too early for me to judge anything about animation as a craft and as a career choice. Also, its clear now that the best way to overcome my fear of failing, or rather, never being able to achieve my dream job is to educate myself as much as possible. I've been entertaining the thought of switching to a different major but I'm going o stick to Animation. I deserve to explore the course regardless of whether I'll perform well in it or not. Its silly how obvious the answer is now that I know it. My deepest apologies to everyone for my rash comments and insults especially to Mr. Davis. I've been so focused and afraid of my semester grades that I've forgotten that its curiosity and relentless determination that would lead me somewhere in life at some point.

Again, my sincere apologies for the trouble/frustration but I sincerely thank you all for your honesty.

Animated Ape's picture

Hahaha...well, [I]"
But it was a belief that came from ... what my peers tell me whether they know what they're saying or not.

Asking non industry people about animation is like asking teenagers about sex. They act like they know what they are talking about, but really they have no idea.

If you are a great artist, there will be a place for you in the animation industry. The job you end up in might change during the time it takes to get there, but there will still be room for you. What I mean is that you want to be an animator now, but during your journey, you might find you're a better BG painter. Or character designer. The point is you'll still be creating making animation you love.

the Ape

Ken Davis's picture
Submitted by Ken Davis on

Put aside all the pretences, perceptions and other stuff, and just focus on drawing and creating.

Get really good at those things. Software can be learned--doesn't take a lot of time really. Art skills need time to develop, and schooling is far less likely to give you time or instruction to allow you to build your talent.

Drawing is the bedrock foundation.
It gives you the most options, inevitably the core problem-solving skill-set, and so many other tangents skills spin-off from drawing.
Good drawing skills never failed anyone in Animation.

To be candid, such skills open the landscape for you to more than just animation, if you choose to explore. That is why so much emphasis is placed on it.

I must repeat what Ape wrote; that if your peers are NOT in Animation, then their opinions about the Animation biz and craft are valueless. Make an obsession about talking to people that ARE in the biz, to get the insight into the biz.
Mum, Dad, the family........friends.......they all mean well, but they know diddly squat about this. THAT will be an obstacle of sorts, because their ignorance WILL translate into pressure on you to follow a career that THEY understand.
Animation is kind of like alchemy; in that pretty much only the alchemist and his ilk know what he's doing. The layman looks on, sees the process.......but they don't get it. They cannot connect the dots.

That's okay though........and its kind of the way it should be, because it preserves some of the magic behind the craft.
The nice thing is that, if you get really good at it. people are just in awe of the whole thing.

To that end, develop your skills. Pick an artist to "be like" and work to rise to that level. Uncover what they know, how they approach the work, the things they do and work along much the same way.
Find your "tempo", a kind of mental cadence where you can approach any creative or technical problem and methodically peel it apart to get to the solution. This will work for drawing, as well as computer stuff.
NOTHING is insurmountable.

Be curious, be obsessive. Other folks might not understand this, but that's expected. Keep in mind that this is all part of the creative process. You can use up a LOT of ingredients in the making of your creation. Accept that, understand that all of it means something, and that what you do means something. Get fascinated by it all.

phacker's picture
Submitted by phacker on

I’ve just finished my 2nd semester and I barely passed my CG in my first. I think I’m going to fail it this time. What should I do? Should I quit my dreams of being an animator? Should I transfer to a Fine Art school? I’m so confused and I feel like nobody I know could understand how I feel enough to help me. I knew that a life of an animator is a hard, hectic life and that it should be almost an obsession to want to draw everyday. I feel I could do that, but I don’t think I could ever bring myself to love using a digital media to conduct any animation.

What is it about cg that has you stymied? Is it that you just feel more comfortable with a pencil? I was middle aged when I entered computor graphics. Took a little while to adjust. But I do very little with a pencil anymore.

Is it that "pesky" bezier concept that has your shorts in a knot? How much have you done on computor? What programs were you using? Are you creating anything on your own just for fun? You really should be doing that.

Lacelette's picture
Submitted by Lacelette on

What is it about cg that has you stymied? Is it that you just feel more comfortable with a pencil?

I think I'm just worried because I'm not able to produce the same level of quality work through digital media as I know I can through traditional media. Its always because there's something wrong with the colour saturation, or the stock images don't blend with the scene and I'm not applying the right effect. For my 2nd semester, CG, we were supposed to make a movie poster using photomontage through Photoshop. My poster looks absolutely horrid and I faced most of the problems I've listed just now. Its like this...I like to believe I'm a pretty good traditional artist. But when I sit down at a computer, everything I know about composition, anatomy, color, movement, layering and perspective suddenly disappear and I'm drawing complete shit.

So yeah, I am currently a 100 times more comfortable using a pencil to draw than having to trace a picture out (as what I had to do in my 1st semester).

How much have you done on computer?

Not much at all. The only time I create any work on computer is when I had to do it for class assignments. And that would be only about 40 hours per week. I have yet to do any self-exploration.

Are you creating anything on your own just for fun? You really should be doing that.

I guess I should. I've been so focused on creating works through a traditional media that perhaps I have sort of abandoned anything that requires a computer. I mean, I'm so much better at painting with acrylics and gouache. And I'm trying to improve on my portrait drawings and venturing into other anatomy parts and designing my own characters. All of that is so interesting to me and I've been doing it all with a pencil or a paintbrush when I know I should be polishing up on my knowledge about digital tools.

I'm gonna get myself a graphic tablet by next week, ideally an Intuos4 since I was told that its not as expensive as Cintiq. Am wondering if buying a bigger tablet would be better or smaller. I mean, I'd like to be able to bring it around everywhere as I like drawing outdoors but does having a bigger tablet screen means that it could hold larger resolutions or something? I better start my research on it.

Ken Davis's picture
Submitted by Ken Davis on

Here's some more advice:

Self-exploration is VITAL. If you are not doing it, you are doing a disservice to yourself and your career.

Up until May of this year, I was a pencil & paper guy....and my work on a tablet was very minimal. Granted, my tablet was really small ( 3X5) and the hand-eye juggling was off-putting for me. I considered getting a larger tablet too, but I felt I was just trading working awkwardly on a small tablet for doing the same on a larger one.

Then I got an offer of a Cintiq 21UX, and I jumped.
I'd played with a Cintiq before, for all of maybe 5 minutes, but that is what it took to sell me on the thing. The key feature to it is that what your hand draws ON THE SCREEN is what you get. Its VERY intuitive in that way, your control......sense of control is direct.
That makes it feel very natural and there's no frustrating re-training yourself in how you go about drawing. Good results come instantly, which is critical for building confidence while using it.
What makes things even better for me is, with a screen protector in place, I can even use the plastic drawing tools, such as straight edges, triangles, circle templates etc. right on the screen---just like drawing on paper.

THAT is the key to making it successfully useful.
It keeps you drawing, keeps the muscle memory intact so drawing still feels natural/comfortable/intuitive and with the software tool sets available, it expands what you can do with drawing.
Software is procedural--its just changing your behaviours that makes or breaks its use--and a persona can easily control their own behaviours.

An aside: I just picked up Manga Studio EX, a comic book drawing software package. Within seconds, I was producing ink lines that I have had a bitch of a time trying to produce on paper for years--and no line-bleeding into the page either. Via the Cintiq, its the IDEAL software for me to do comics with now, rather than producing them on bristol.

Now the Cintiq is pricey, and there's waiting lists, I'm told. $2000+ cost is a chunk of change, no doubt. Tablet PCs exist--laptops where you can draw on the screens, like a Cintiq, but they are considerably smaller. Pricing is modest, they can often be had for about $1000-$1500 CDN +or-.
Likewise is the Cintiq 12" model, BUT you trade-off the cost for a smaller working space on-screen. Getting a larger tablet may or may not work for you, because it depends solely on how comfortably you draw with your eyes up here and your hand down over there.

I stuck by my insistence on the 21" model because of one key factor: I knew my intentions were to use the tool for MORE than just one specific working task--in my case, storyboarding. I want to do comics, digital painting, illustration, concept art, perhaps even some 3D modelling.
The 21UX is an INVESTMENT in that regards--although I did not pay full price, I got mine ( lightly) used, at a nice mark-down from a colleague.
the Cintiq is definitely the high-end, the F-22, the Cadillac tool. But I think it gives someone an expansive set of tools that......well.........nothing else currently offers.
Yeah, that's a hard sell right there.......

I find that using it takes a small amount of adjustment, and most of that is in the software. I use Photoshop in my storyboarding, which is a bit of overkill, but hey, it works. The hard part is remembering all the tools and the steps.
Layers, for example, mean I can work rough at the outset, get my thinking down in my drawing space and then return and fine-tune the composition, anatomy, perspective etc as I need to. But I have to remember to treat all of those things as separate elements now. Again, as I said before, its a behavioural change.

That is just what gets you into the boat though, using the tools is putting the oars in the water and rowing and THAT is where all the work is

rach3's picture
Submitted by rach3 on

I'm currently in a postgraduate animation program; of 20-odd students, there are maybe two or three professional animators, and I'm not one of them :D People's backgrounds are really varied, along with artistic ability. So, from the indie/experimental end of the spectrum, I'll throw out my two cents:

- There's more to animation than pencil vs computer. Stop motion covers a very very broad spectrum of techniques. Paper cutouts (look up Michel Ocelot and Lotte Reineger); sand on glass; painting on glass; charcoal or pastel on paper, erasing as you go; clay puppets; etc etc etc. Since you're at school, getting hold of a lightbox/camera setup should be a breeze.
- Check out an animation festival if/when you can...or spend a couple of days on YouTube. The animation world is full of people telling very powerful and moving stories, with wildly varying levels of artistic skill. Lots of stories just work better as short films (e.g. Where the Wild Things Are, charming little bedtime storybook that was IMHO utterly ruined by dragging it out to feature length!)

tyree's picture
Submitted by tyree on

how many people love singing. that are not going to become singers. thats more than a few

b'ini's picture
Submitted by b'ini on

I'd recommend trying really hard to get an internship at an animation studio. See for yourself what is really happening. Believe it or not, animators and studios DO care about their stories and characters even if it doesn't always come through on the big or small screen.

While you're there, you'll also get a sense of where you fit along the pipeline. It sounds like you'd do really well at the beginning - the Story and Pre-Vis phase.

As far a school and technology, put a request out there for a tutor - preferably a fellow student who'd be willing to trade the computer smarts for your drawing skills.

As for you're original question - I doubt I'll ever make it as a professional animator and all my opportunities have lead me down the production path. And guess what - I'm really good at it AND I love it. For a while I saw it as settling for something less than my original goal but now I see how necessary it is and love being appreciated by my team. I still do my own animation and freelance now and again for motion graphics and photo editing. I also take art classes at a local center.

So, you never really know where you'll end up but the key is never quit. Never. That is something you'll really regret. And, FWIW, this crossroad is what separates all the artists, sculptors, animators and filmmakers from the rest of the world.

Uncreative's picture
Submitted by Uncreative on

Well, if you have doubts, you could switch, but remember, you can still do what you love in your free time. You don't have to do animation if you'd just rather draw. You do go more into illustration and stuff like that.

arjames's picture
Submitted by arjames on

Yes, I think so. Like in my case, I love playing the keyboard but I'm not so good in it. If only I have the time, I will enroll into a music class to have formal organ lessons. If you love doing it sooner or later you will be very good at it.